The Spanish Grand Prix 2019 is one of the biggest racing events in the European Formula 1 racing calendar. The F1 circuit of Catalunya is just a few kilometers drive from the city of Barcelona. Formerly referred to as the Circuit de Catalunya, the track is no stranger to historic Grand Prix races that have earned titles for many a moto GP racer like retired Formula 1 champ Michael Schumacher and his fellow hot wheeler Kimi Raikonnen.
The Spanish F1 circuit has tested the skills of the most seasoned drivers; this is due to its sharp bends intercepting every straight run. The Elf Corner as it is colloquially termed is the track’s most treacherous turn.
|The official name of the track||Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya|
|Location||Montmelo, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain|
|Geographical coordinates||41°34'12?N 2°15'40'E|
|The length of the route||4.655 km (2.892 mi)|
|The number of turns||16|
|The lap record in the race||1:21.670 (Kimi Räikkönen, Ferrari, 2008)|
The circuit was started in 1913, back then it was known as the Gran Premio De Espana and it was a fruition of road racing attempts that had been started as early as 1908. The earliest known circuit is the Baix Penedes which hosted the Catalan Cup. This race was held in an old resort town called Sitges in Barcelona province.
At the height of its growing popularity in 1922, there were talks of laying the pipework on a permanent structure to be situated in Sitges. The idea of building a permanent home for the road racing events came in the person of Frick Armangue, a racer himself . After a little tinkering around in the woodshed, an official structure emerged – the Sitges Terramar oval, a year later, this would be 1923. The Spanish Grand Prix track would forever be remembered since this point in history.
The oval cost about four million pesetas to put together which was definitely a lot at the time. But the sacrifice and passion that went into it paid off as the second Spanish Grand Prix was held on that same circuit at its official grand opening in the year 1923. The course itself laid itself out for two kilometers; and among the drivers that participated in that race, Alberto Divo claimed the lead from Count Louis Zborowski in the entire 200 lap run that made up the circuit. Count Louis defeat was attributed to a tyre change which coincidentally is the same reason Daniel Ricciardo lost to his competitor Lewis Hamilton in the 2016 Circuit De Barcelona Catalunya.
Circuit de Catalunya would eventually become a legend. The formation and success of the races continued onwards until they had to pave way for the Civil War which rambled on until 1946. After the war ended, racing picked up again and the Pedrables circuit played host to the first post civil war Grand Prix races in its native city of Catalunya. The first ever world championship on Spanish soil came in 1951; and as one might imagine it was the Circuit in Catalunya that hosted both races. Tragedy, however, visited in 1955 as a race car plowed into the crowd forcing the races to be shut down on grounds of spectator safety.
This was short lived as in 1961 a long held rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona necessitated the need of circuit being built outside the (by this time) controversy tainted Catalunya. Construction of this new stadium was commissioned by the Automobile Club of Spain and a showcase circuit was erected close to the capital Madrid.
In the meantime, renovations were underway on the elder sister of the Madrid circuit. When both were completed, the successful track record of the Spanish F1 track and the more standardized Madrid circuit, despite being rivals at first, worked concertedly in making Spain a Grand Prix destination for European and later non European drivers alike.
One can say that a rivalry of sorts sparked up again in 1968 when the new Catalunya circuit - by which time it had been re-routed through Montjuic Park - decided to split races after the Jarama circuit had hosted several world championships beginning in 1968. The races were halted again and this time it was due to a fatal car accident that happened in 1975.
German Racer Rolf Stommelen’s Hill Ford crashed killing four people. But unlike before, this didn’t mean the end of the now famous Catalunya Formula 1 event but rather a closure of the seemingly jinxed Montjuic Park circuit. Jarama became the sole track for future Moto GP races from that time. The Catalunya resurrected in the eighties for good with the government sanctioning Circuit F1 to represent a state-of-the-art race circuit. It took up the place of the Jarama circuit that had fallen out of favor with stakeholders as a worthy venue to be playing host to world championships. Hence, the Formula 1 Catalunya race track was born and stands to this day.
The modern race track of the Spanish Grand Prix circuit is 4.655 kilometers with nearly half of it cornerless to balance out the other half which is bedazzled with all kinds of sharp bends and turns. The 6 lap track is divided into three sectors with a speed trap in the first section of the circuit.
The F1 Catalunya action is viewable from any position in the grandstands and Elf corner navigations wow audience every time. Despite the daredevil aura of it, Fernando Alonso beat the circuit in 1995, becoming the first Spanish driver to tame the track and retain home advantage. For more info on the Spanish Grand Prix circuit map, check the featured image.